Sexplain It: My Wife Just Splurged on Something We Absolutely Can't Afford

Zachary Zane helps a man talk spending habits in this week's column.

smiling young woman with boarding pass in airport concourse
RapidEyeGetty Images
sexplain it graphic
.

I'm Zachary Zane, a sex writer and ethical manwhore (a fancy way of saying I sleep with a lot of people, and I'm very, very open about it). Over the years, I've had my fair share of sexual experiences, dating and sleeping with hundreds of people of all genders and orientations. In doing so, I've learned a thing or two about navigating issues in the bedroom (and a bunch of other places, TBH). I'm here to answer your most pressing sex questions with thorough, actionable advice that isn't just "communicate with your partner," because you know that already. Ask me anything—literally, anything—and I will gladly Sexplain It.

To submit a question for a future column, fill out this form.


Dear Sexplain It,

I’m a sommelier who was fired earlier this year because of COVID. Like many other service industry workers, I have no idea when I’ll be able to find another job.

My wife knows this, and yet she’s been spending money like I’m working full-time. She just surprised me by telling me she booked us a vacation upstate for five days. Between the Airbnb and train tickets, it’s not cheap. I previously spoke to her about how we need to be more conservative with our spending. She said she understood, but then she goes and does this.

When I told her we should cancel, she said that we have a decent amount of savings, and she thinks it would be good for us to get away from our teenage boys, who’ve been driving us nuts. (They definitely have been.)

I have no idea when I’m going to be working again, and when I do startup working, it’ll likely be part-time at a reduced rate. At this rate, we will blow through our savings. I’m not sure what to tell my wife to make this clear. I understand she’s stressed and spending money to feel better about everything, but we can’t be spending like this right now. Do you think I should try to convince her to cancel the trip, or do something else?

—Money Troubles


Dear Money Troubles,

If I had nickel for every time I worried about money, I'd no longer be worried about money. I'd have a Scrooge McDuck-ian vault filled with coins.

Financial concerns are the goddamn worst. Few things in this world compare to the feeling of “How am I going to pay rent this month?” or “How am I going to put food on the table for my kids?” They're also huge relationship stressors. In fact, they're one of the top reasons for divorce, especially when one partner is a spender and the other is a saver.

Due to the pandemic, many couples who previously didn’t have money issues now do, and many who did have them are struggling even more. It’s a pain in the ass to navigate. This is where compromise and communication come in.

While I understand your wife’s perspective—she just wants to spend some quality time with you and pretend everything is normal for a few days—she also screwed up... big time. She went behind your back and booked a trip after you had a conversation with her about being more conservative with money. This not only tells me she isn't considering your thoughts and feelings, she's also potentially jeopardizing your ability to support your family.

Gain exclusive access to the best sex tips, relationship advice, and more with our premium membership program.
Men's Health

I showed your question to my friend Gaby Dunn, author of Bad With Money and host of the Bad With Money podcast. Dunn has spent the past few years studying money, and specifically, how to have a healthy relationship with your own finances.

“It seems like your wife is clinging to normalcy/denial, and you're deep in reality/pessimism, depending on who you ask,” Dunn says. Dunn feels for your wife, who clearly wants some alone time without your sons around, which is hard to come by during a pandemic.

“However, the big problem here is that she is not listening to you,” Dunn says. You expressed anxiety about something, and your partner blew right by that. It's downright selfish. “She is prioritizing her stress over yours when you're a couple."

Assuming you can get a full (or even partial) refund, you should talk to your wife about canceling the trip. Even if you were to go, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the time away because you’d be an anxious mess the whole time about the money being spent. In turn, I doubt she would enjoy the vacation either.

Sit down with your wife and say, “I’m upset that you booked a vacation without telling me. I feel like you dismissed my concerns when I said we needed to save money for the time being. Now, I know you’re stressed, and I understand your desire to connect without the kids around—I desperately want that, too. But let’s try to figure out something we both can agree on because if I went on the trip with you now, I’d be an anxious the entire time. That wouldn’t be relaxing for either of us.”

Maybe there’s a way you can drop the kids off with relatives for a weekend and have a staycation instead? Or, if a full cancellation isn't an option (for instance, if the train tickets are non-refundable), perhaps you can talk about decreasing the time spent on the trip or finding cheaper accommodations.

I’m not sure how else your wife is spending money at the moment, so I can’t say how reasonable or unreasonable her overall spending habits are. (Therapy shopping for a $900 Prada bag is unreasonable. Buying new winter jackets for the teenagers because they outgrew theirs? Reasonable, assuming she’s not buying designer.) Whatever the case, you need to come to an agreement on how and what you spend money on moving forward.

When you're done talking about the surprise vacay, set up a time in the near future to talk about budgeting. You can say, “Hey, would you mind going over our budget for next month and discussing potential purchases, so that way we both can be content with our spending?”

Remember that you both will have to make compromises. Your wife’s going to want to buy more than you do, but she’ll also be spending less than she wants to. Find that middle ground. Also, note that things change as money does or does not come in. That’s why it’s beneficial to have a budget conversation monthly. Every 30 days relook at your finances and have the same convo, making tweaks as necessary for the following month.

You can also use this time to discuss ways to connect—with and without the kids—that don’t break the bank. Drop the kids at their grandparents' and make a home-cooked meal for two, or something else from our list of at-home date night ideas. The romantic and budget-friendly options are endless.

Times are hard, and stress levels are high, but you’ll get through this. God knows that when the pandemic finally subsides, we’ll all need a full glass of wine, if not multiple bottles. You just gotta get through the next year or so.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From SEXPLAIN IT